New Glarus Town Hall (T. Nichols photo, 2007)
New Glarus Town Hall interior (T. Nichols photo, 2007)
New Glarus Town Hall
206 Second Street, New Glarus, Green County
Date of construction: 1886
When settlers from Glarus, Switzerland founded the community of New Glarus, Wisconsin in 1845, their first concern was getting through the winter and producing enough food for their families. Nearly forty years later in 1886, this thriving community of over 1000 residents prepared to build their very own town hall.
During the 19th century the New Glarus community had found economic success in farming and cheese-making, which required supplies, such as lumber, wagons, barrels, metal fabrication, and special farming equipment. Many of the people that made, built, and supplied these items formed fraternal benefit societies where they could socialize, help provide for each other's long-term financial needs, and improve their community. One such popular club was the Ancient Order of United Workmen (A.O.U.W.), the largest of its kind in Wisconsin during this time. In the 1880s, the recently formed New Glarus A.O.U.W. club was looking for a more permanent meeting space, while the Town was hoping to build a town hall. Partnering with the A.O.U.W. in 1886, the Town bought the land and paid for the construction of the building up the second floor. The A.O.U.W. paid for the rest, as the second floor was their private meeting place. The space was decorated with a colorful, geometric patterned wall paper and the club built their own special furniture, much of which remains in the building today.
The New Glarus Town Hall resembles other American civic or community buildings of the 19th century. As a civic building, it not only served the town for town meetings and voting, but it was also New Glarus' early jail (it still retains jail bars on its basement windows). As a community building, the A.O.U.W. came to share its space with many other groups. These included the Women's Relief CORP; the International Order of Odd Fellows; Sisters of Rebeka; the Ge¬genseitige Unterstützungs Gesellschaft Germania, a German/Swiss women's fraternal group; the Wilhelm Tell Guild, an early shooting club; the New Glarus Maennerchor, a Swiss men's choir; the Edelweiss Stars, a Swiss choir; the Cub/Boy Scouts; and the local 4-H club.
Today the building is owned by the New Glarus Town Hall Preservation Society.